In many oral cultures, music is at least as prevalent as storytelling as a major means of communication. Songs may transmit a group's history and heritage by highlighting their heroic figures. Songs may be used to teach simple truths or provide sophisticated, clever critique of contemporary events or the powers that be. Music entertains and inspires. It is often an essential element of major life events such as weddings, funerals, initiation ceremonies, religious observances, and the like.
Music is a powerful channel for expressing what people feel. Songs build community as people experience music that binds them together and lyrics that tap into their shared experiences. Songs have an ability to reassure listeners that they are not alone in their feelings; others have felt that way before and may be feeling that way now. Music may help people find a direction when they are uncertain of what to do. Music has rallied communities, tribes, even entire nations both to gallant endeavors--and to evil and destructive campaigns, too. Like every form of communication, it may be used for good or evil or sheer banality.
The introduction of Christian themes into appropriate local musical genre is a natural expression of new-found faith in Christ among artists and musicians. Having experienced the joy of salvation, they naturally turn to music as one outlet for expressing it. Not every genre of music may be appropriate for Christian use; local Christians are the best people to make the determination of which music they can use for worship or songs of testimony. Using some local musical styles in Christian worship enables Christians to worship more deeply and enthusiastically. It also signals that people can be both members of their ethnic group and Christians, too. Becoming a Christian need not lead to the complete obliteration of their culture, which is a very real fear among many, many non-Christian communities.
In many oral cultures music is a regular part of storytelling. The two oral art forms are interwoven in ways that enrich the presentation, draw in the listeners as participants, and provide multiple memory hooks for important information. Local singer-storytellers should be encouraged to use their local performing arts in conjunction with their Christian faith. With encouragement and tactful coaching, new Christians can learn to incorporate biblical stories, proverbs, and Scripture themes into performing art forms.